Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Radio Ga-Ga, Part I

Time for yours truly, Sir Rant-A-Lot, to go to work on the very business I once sought to have a long career in—radio!  Is it any small wonder that so many people are buying satellite radios these days, given the current pathetic state of terrestrial radio?  I’ve thought about doing the satellite thing myself, but considering that I now have a CD player in my car and enough CDs to (literally) start my own radio station, I can’t really justify it.  Sad to say, but radio as we know and love it, is dying a slow and painful death, with the blame due mostly to lack of imagination on the part of programmers and their desire to make every station sound the same.  I plan to delve into all that down the road, but first I’d like to give you a little background on my brief, but somewhat eventful radio career.

My dream of becoming a disc jockey was born at approximately 3AM in the middle of the night sometime around 1978 or ‘79 while listening to KBEQ-FM in K.C., aka “Q104”.  I distinctly remember thinking how cool it would be to just play records and talk about them on the radio all night, and how easy it would be for me, given my knowledge of Top 40 Rock ‘N’ Roll history and all.  So, I wasted five years going to college to learn how to be a DJ (not realizing, of course, that there are far easier and shorter paths to that same goal), and I wound up with a totally worthless degree in Communications Studies from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (Class of ‘87).  However, I was lucky enough to secure an internship at KKJC-AM in suburban Blue Springs, MO, or as it was affectionately known, the “Mighty 1030” (or on occasion, the “Dirty 1030”), beginning in the late fall of 1986.

The year 1987 will go down as my all-time favorite in terms of gainful employment, even though I didn’t make squat.  My little internship quickly evolved into a part-time job with yours truly manning the very same control board once operated by the legendary Wolfman Jack (during a one-time guest appearance in 1985).  I was living the dream (however humbly) with our modicum of listeners—all three of ‘em!  I started off being strictly a board operator, plugging in commercials and such during our satellite hours on the Transtar Radio Network, during which I got to deliver the weather (on tape) twice an hour.  Other dreams came true for me over time, including getting to read off the school closings when it snowed 14 inches on December 20, 1987 (as my car got buried in a snowdrift in the parking lot, all the while, and my friend Tom had to drive me home), running the board during Kansas City Comets indoor soccer broadcasts (that team being another MAJOR vice of mine during that time), and eventually having my own live shifts yapping on the radio and playing the hits.

It was the best of times and the worst of times, as the station was teetering on the brink financially and was tantalizingly close to being sold and combined with an FM station that would have made for a dandy AM/FM combo, but the deal fell through at the last minute because some horse’s patoot negotiator decided he wanted a little extra gravy for himself.  Thus, the "little station that could" quietly faded into oblivion on Super Bowl Sunday, 1988 while the Redskins were pummeling John Elway and the Broncos in San Diego.  We gave no prior notice to our loyal listeners (all three of ‘em) that we were signing off for good and there was no fanfare at all.  I was rather miffed that no other station personnel were even present at the studio that night (just me and my best friend Tom were there), and I don’t think it was all because of the Super Bowl either—hell, we had the game on in the studio anyway.  It was like I was the only person from the staff who even gave a shit about it, and it was very surreal to me.

The plan was to just let the final hours play out as normal off the Transtar satellite, but long about 9:00, I said to Tom, "This is wrong!" so, I hopped off the satellite and rounded up every song that we had on hand that had "Goodbye" or "Bye Bye" in the title ("Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Bye Bye Love", "Goodbye To Love", "Never Can Say Goodbye", etc.) and just played them back to back for the final 40 minutes of the "Mighty 1030"’s existence, culminating with The Nylons’ version of "Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye" (dammit, I wish I had the original Steam version that night!) just before the clock struck 10PM CST and I uttered, "Music from yesterday on AM 1030, KKJC, Blue Springs."  Thus, I was bestowed the very unique distinction of my voice being the last one ever heard on a radio station—something I’ll take to the fucking grave with me.  As I switched the transmitter off, I turned to Tom and said, "It’s dead, Jim…"  A couple minutes later, I get a call from the station owner, Dick Pryor (yes, I can truthfully say I once worked for Richard Pryor!) and he said, "Very appropriate," regarding my choice for the final tune.

R.I.P., KKJC-AM-"The Mighty 1030" (1984-88)

Little did I know at the time that my radio career was already halfway over, too—stay tuned for Part II…